How Do You Start Writing a Book?

writing a bookThinking about writing a book?

Welcome to the neighborhood. A lot of people are. There are people who have either been thinking about writing a book for years, or who have been writing a book for years. Or, at least, someone has been telling them they needed to be writing a book, for years.

At every business conference or networking event that I have ever attended—and there have been quite a few of them—I would say, on average, that at least 70% or more of the people I meet are either writing a book, or know someone else who is. And, remember, that’s only the people I meet at these events. I’m not a speed networker by any means. I like to take time and chat with the people I meet and get to know them. And, let’s not forget to mention the business gurus who are holding these conferences: Almost all of them are telling their entrepreneur attendees that they need to write a book. Even if they don’t want to.

But book writing is not just for entrepreneurs. There are people out there with real life experiences or fictional stories that they want to share with others in book form.

But, why?

The reasons are infinitesimal. If you are an entrepreneur, you might want to write a book to gain more visibility, establish, credibility, or gain more clients. You might be a motivational speaker who wants to do a book signing after your talk. You might have found a solution to a problem and want to help others. You might feel your life experiences could help someone or save a life. You might want to enlighten or entertain others with your fictional story. Or, you simply might be hoping you can hit it big and write a bestseller, make your book into a movie, sell t-shirts and movie posters and replica dolls.

So, how do you get started?

First of all, writing a book is not like writing an article, or a blog, or an email, or a text. It has to have a formula, a plan, an outline. The problem is that sometimes you won’t know what that formula, plan, or outline is until you actually start writing.

In other words, writing is discovery. You have to write to discover and you have to discover to write more.

That’s why the act of writing is so magical, and no one can ever truly tell you how to do it.

What I can tell you, however, is that if you impose an outline, form, or structure onto your book before you even know what you want to write, you may already be stopping your story in its tracks before you even start writing, and finding yourself coming down with an acute case of writer’s block which requires long walks on the beach, glasses of wine, and naps on the couch for days to get rid of it.

Or, you can try a different writer’s block cure, and that is called, “more writing”!

How can writing cure the inability to write?

Because while you are writing, you are actually going through the creative process of finding out if you have a story to tell. Because you can’t write a book without telling a story. Let’s say you’ve had an interesting life, a lot of hardships, or experiences from which others might learn. But, if you can’t weave any of those into a story, well, then you haven’t got a book. Every book, fiction or nonfiction, is comprised of an underlying story. Whether that story is intrinsic or overt, there’s an underlying thread that weaves every element together.

That is your quest as a writer…to find that golden thread!

So, keep writing until you can “see” your story. Keep filling that blank page, even if you don’t feel satisfied with what you have written. Then, put aside, delete, or throw away anything that doesn’t fit. Once you have your “story”, start writing again and enjoy writing to make it come to life!

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Writer’s Block “Rehab” in 3 Easy Steps

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By now, you have not only developed a writing routine, but you have also experimented with your writing environment. Right? If you haven’t, please refer to the first two posts in this series of chipping away at Writer’s Block.

So, here’s the million-dollar question: How do you create fresh, new, and invigorating content for your writing?

Most folks don’t associate the word “invigorating” with writing. Come to think of it, when I hear the word “invigorating”, I think of diving into a fresh cold water spring on a hot summer day. That certainly sounds inviting, doesn’t it?

Well, that is exactly how your readers should feel when they read what you wrote. They should feel refreshed after reading what you wrote. They should feel amazed. Like they have gained something valuable from you that they could have never received on their own.

So, let’s discuss three things you can do this week to generate, fresh, new, and invigorating content.

First of all, you need ideas. Great content always comes from great ideas.

Just to refresh your memory. There’s no need to write what someone else has already written. No need to argue the same arguments. No need to regurgitate what’s been written before. Got it?

STEP 1: Make lists.

In 20 minutes, make a list of at least 75 things about your topic. I know, this sounds ridiculous. However, forcing yourself to come up with an seemingly infinite (not really) amount of ideas in a very short period of time forces you to reach inside your heart and mind and find what is within. The beginning of your list will most likely be the most obvious things that everyone else will have thought of too. It’s the end of the list where the real creativity reveals itself. Once your list is complete, go back and scratch off every point that you’ve heard, read, and spoken about before. And, write about the most unusual and exciting things you’ve come up with.

STEP 2: Argue for and against your topic.

Now, arguing for and against a topic seems to assume that there are only two sides to a story. Actually, there are three, or five, or maybe even more. Force yourself to come up with as many angles as you can. Do this on your own before without doing any research or reading what anyone else has to say. Force yourself to come up with a list of ten arguments. Some of them may overlap and that’s okay. Now, pick the best five and write cogent arguments for all of them.

STEP 3: Brainstorming.

Brainstorming involves connecting your mind to other minds (but not like Mr. Spock)! Pick a friend, neighbor, family member, even your kids to learn new perspectives and insights about or related to your subject matter. Chances are that there will be several that you have not considered. You are not looking for arguments here, per se, but rather as many ideas related to your subject matter as you can. At this point, we can’t write in a vacuum and need to know what other minds are thinking. Plus, because we are already subconsciously influenced by a variety of factors and rules that we impose upon ourselves, it can be refreshing to listen to others. This is an exercise in open-mindedness. So, we need to listen with a third ear. List the new insights you have gained and do a timed 5-minute writing about each.

If you have followed this advice for the past three weeks, you surely have broken out of your writer’s block conundrum. Post a comment and let me know about the new and interesting things you have been writing about!

Step 2: Knocking out Writer’s Block, cont.

If you read my first installment on writer’s block (aka STEP ONE) and the three very simple tips I gave to get started, you have probably come to the same conclusion as I have:  The main source of the writer’s block conundrum is … ourselves!

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There are many reasons why we get writer’s block, but here are three main ones:

Procrastination

Pressure

Performance

Let’s examine each of these in more detail.

PROCRASTINATION. This reason is obvious. We put off today what we can do tomorrow, or the next day, to re-use the well-worn phrase. If you have been following my advice to write for 10 minutes per day for 7 days in a row, you’ve now established a writing routine. Remember, it doesn’t matter what you have written. It doesn’t matter if you like what you wrote. What matters is that writing is now a part of your daily routine!

Now, I’m going to use a word that many people do not like when it comes to writing.  But, I am going to say it anyway.

Deadline.

Yep, I said it. Deadline.

Let me explain why.

I can’t tell you how many people I have met who say they would like to write a book “one day”, or that they have been working on their book for the past seven years. What does that tell you, folks?

It tells you that they have never set a deadline.

No matter what you are writing—a book, a blog, a report, an article—you will need to establish a deadline and stick to it. If it’s a longer project, such as a book, create a deadline for each chapter. And, don’t relent.

PRESSURE:  Ah, I just told you to establish a deadline and now I am telling you that pressure causes writer’s block. But, this is a different kind of pressure. This is the kind of pressure that comes from within. A personal kind of pressure.

Most of us edit while we write. When we first begin writing, we are experimenting (unbeknownst to us) at the same time we are focusing on putting our thoughts onto paper. But, how can we do those two things when we are also thinking about grammar, punctuation, spelling, and if our writing flows (whatever that really means)?

The answer is:  You can’t.

That’s like chopping down trees while you’re trying to plant a forest.

The remedy?

You’re probably not going to like it.

But, I’ll repeat it again. Keep doing what you have been doing. For the past 7 days.  Keep that writing routine going. If that practice is getting a little stale, here are three ways to spice up your writing routine a bit:

  1. Write with a computer or pad (yes, now you can) but turn off the screen or don’t look at it while you are writing. Turn off autocorrect, too.
  2. Change your ambience. Create the perfect writing environment. Dream a little. Light a candle or write in your favorite outdoor place. Change the type of pens and paper that you use.
  3. Listen to music as you write. What types of music brings out your creativity? Do you write differently when you listen to rock versus classical?

PERFORMANCE. Are you secretly worried that when you do publish your work, you will get four stars instead of five?  I must admit that this worry most likely reverts back to our kindergarten days when we got those stars on our schoolwork papers and everybody compared how many starts they got .)

Now, don’t reveal the answer to that question just yet.

Because first there’s one thing you need to understand.

Not everyone will like or agree with your message. Not everyone will like or agree with you. And, you might not like their reasons or rationale for not liking what your message says or for not liking you.

That’s okay.

Not everyone is always liked.

You just want to make sure that you do not offend people. Period.

But, it’s okay if they disagree.

Civil and respectful disagreement can create conversation. In fact, as a writer, you should be craving dialogue with your readers. Because what’s the point in writing for people who already agree with what you are saying? You want to open up new doors and start new conversations. Right?

If not, you need to be more open-minded to other perspectives.

But, before you worry about your future readers, you first need to figure out what you think and what you want to say before being influenced by what others think.

So, my advice is this: When you are in the creating or invention stage of your writing, first, write for yourself.

When you are ready to write for others, be open-minded, and don’t worry about those stars.

Stay tuned for my third and final discussion on Writer’s Block which will focus on how to create that new, fresh and inviting content that your writing craves!

Severe Case of Writer’s Block? Three simple steps to getting rid of it once and for all

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Just within the past couple of months, several folks have confided in me.

About “writer’s block”, and how they wished they could get rid of it.

In thinking about this problem, which plagues all writers, whether they care to admit it or not, I decided to make a few suggestions to help you get rid of this rather unpleasant problem once and for all.

But, there’s a catch.

Isn’t there always?

The catch is that you must read these suggestions and then do them.

Even if you don’t feel like it.

(Which is one of the reasons we get writer’s block…)

So, let’s begin.

STEP 1: Start thinking.

I mean really thinking. Every day, when you are doing your favorite activity, whether it’s walking the dog, swimming, hiking, running, cycling, sitting outdoors, beaching–you get the picture (You need to be active? Yes!), take time to just think.

About nothing in particular.

Just think.

You see, writing and thinking are intertwined. If your mind is clogged, the clog will show up in your writing. You may not see where the clog is, but a clog is a clog. Many famous writers over the years have said this. I’m just repeating what they have already said.

Now, don’t skip this step. Because it’s really important.

If you say you don’t have time, then that’s one of the reasons you are experiencing writer’s block. Because if you want to write, you have to think, and if you want to think, you have to make the time.

For 10 minutes a day. That’s all you really need.

Now, after you have spent your 10 minutes thinking, come indoors (yes, you should do your thinking outside unless it’s 10 degrees outdoors), write down any new ideas that may have popped in your head. Don’t write down any of the garbage. Only the new ideas. Do this every day until new ideas start popping in your head!

Keep doing this even if it takes 30 days. But, I don’t think that it will.

Now, if you get too many ideas popping in your head, try to remember the three most important ones. (Just last week I filled two entire notebook pages after a 15-minute walk with my pooch.)

STEP 2: Start talking to yourself. 

Aloud.

Yep, when you’re cleaning the house, driving to work, or taking a shower, talk aloud. Talk like no one is listening (i.e. make sure no one is in earshot). Talk about things that are on your mind, problems, concerns, rants, complaints. (This is the one time you are allowed to complain.)

Get rid of all the negative garbage that’s been holding you back.

This goes back to what I said in Step 1. When your mind is clogged, your thinking gets clogged, and when your thinking is clogged, your writing is clogged.

STEP 3: Write for 10 minutes a day.

Make this 10-minute writing session a part of your daily schedule.

Even if you don’t feel like it.

Force yourself.

To do this exercise, get a notepad and paper (NOT a computer or a pad) and set a timer for 5 minutes. (Whoa, whoa, whoa…you may be saying. Write with a pen and paper? How antiquarian! Don’t complain. Just write.)

During this 5 minutes, write nonstop. About anything. Don’t worry about what you are writing, don’t worry about how it sounds, don’t worry if you have nothing to say.

Don’t worry.

Just write.

Peter Elbow called this “free writing.” I just call it writing. Nonstop. For five minutes. Back to back.

Then, don’t read it. Or, read it. Or, just throw it away. It doesn’t matter.

Do these two timed 5-minute writings back to back for 7 days.

By the end of the week, you will have achieved:

a) at least 10-minutes of exercise and/or outdoors time daily,

b) a verbal unleashing of everything that’s been bugging you and thus stopping you from writing,

And, c) about 7 to 14 pages of writing.

It doesn’t matter if what you wrote is good.

It just matters that you wrote.

Now, continue thinking, talking, and writing and make it part of your daily routine.

Look for more advice on combating writer’s block next Wednesday as we explore the three main reasons for writer’s block and how to combat them!

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be a “Dash”

Last spring, my Uncle Joe gave me a call. It was a pleasant surprise. Because I hadn’t heard from him in a very long time. Because he was my mom’s little brother. Because he was the last little bit of my mother that I had left.

Stephen_Henry_Wendover_tombstoneWe talked about an hour, catching up, about my cousins, about my kids. Then he told me the reason for his call. He had recently retired and was now working on a family tree. He needed details, like the correct spelling of names and birthdates.

He mentioned relatives I’ve been wondering about for years, a second cousin whom I haven’t seen since her wedding shower decades ago. He gave me her phone number and email address.

After that conversation, my uncle and I connected via email from time to time. Sometimes I got a card in the mail, or I would send him one. In the fall, a thick brown envelope came in the mail. My name and address was written matter-of-factly in cursive. Uncle Joe’s handwriting. I opened the envelope and there was a short note that went something like this: Dear Wendy. Here is the family tree I was telling you about. It is now done. Thank you for helping me with the project. Hope to see you soon. Love, Uncle Joe.

I set the envelope down. I was heading out of the house for a business trip, and wanted to take the time to read and concentrate on the contents. I placed it on the bed in my spare room, so my dogs wouldn’t chew on it while I was away.

After I returned and unpacked and got back to usual, I sent my uncle an email, thanking him for his hard work and telling him that I would call him later in the week. A few days later, my sister called and left me a nebulous voicemail message, something about “bad news” and that she couldn’t be reached until the evening. My stomach felt uneasy for the rest of the day until I heard her voice. She told me that our uncle had collapsed while jogging in the park. Died of a heart attack. 69 years old. It was tough news. He was the last of that generation to pass away.

I went to my enclave, a spare bedroom linked with bookshelves, where I keep my cherished books, photographs, and mementos, and my telescope. I just sat on the bed and cried. I hoped that he had read my email, that he knew that I was proud of his hard work in researching our family. I opened the brown envelope once again, but this time it felt different. His handwritten note made me feel as if his ever-presence were looking down on me.

The report was clean, crisp, perfectly executed, neatly typewritten. On page one were the names of my grandma’s parents and her grandparents. Those names were familiar because she had once told me about her relatives long ago over cookies and conversation. She was especially proud of her grandmother who had been born in the U.S. and had finished high school in the late 1800’s. I actually knew and remember my grandma’s father, my great-grandpa, who passed away when I was 10. He said I was as smart as a whip, because each time he did a card trick–and he loved to stump people–I could guess the right card before he even finished. The list of names continued, generation after generation, the births, the marriages, the deaths, even the divorces. Each person listed had a birthdate and a date of death, everyone else was listed as a birth date and a dash. Had our lives been diminished only to names, numbers, and dashes?

Besides those whom I knew personally or had heard about second-hand, the others were mere names and numbers. Who were they? How had they spent their lives? What were their hardships, their heartaches, and their joys? What message would they tell others if given the chance? If they had written a diary, a journal, a poem or story, or even a book they could have shared their brilliance with others.

Recently, I read an article about how, in the future, family trees will be created with the help of social media. Of links we post, of statuses, of photos posted or tagged without our knowledge, of rants, of quips, of smart remarks. Is this how we want to be remembered? For some us, maybe so. But, is the meaning our our lives merely a collection of snippets and sound bites?

We all have laughed, and we all have cried from the depths of our souls; we all have gone through trauma and come out strong again. What have we learned? What wisdom can we impart to others? Are we willing to share, or have we merely resolved to being remembered as a dash?

Always the Ghostwriter, Sometimes the Ghost

Many people do not know what a ghostwriter does. I have heard questions ranging from, You write books? Really? to Do you write ghost stories? I love ghost stories. That last one always makes me smile.

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To clear up the matter, here are some quick and easy-to-read facts about the subject of ghostwriting, ghostwriters, and ghosts.

Ghosts are scary. Ghostwriters are not. (Well, maybe some are. You be the judge.) Ghostwriters are some of the the most empathetic people you will ever meet. We have to possess the empathetic gene because there is no way we can become “you”, the person we are writing about if we cannot put ourselves into your shoes. Empathy is a key component of ghostwriting, and a vital characteristic of a ghostwriter. We listen, are patient, and care about your project, oftentimes more than you do.

Ghosts are elusive. Ghostwriters are not. Or, at least, we don’t want to be. Ghostwriters can be found through an internet search for “ghostwriters” or in organizations, such as Association of Ghostwriters. Unfortunately, there are so many ghostwriting ads on the first page of an internet search (and we get confused with that old T.V. show Ghostwriter, and with songwriter ghostwriters on Twitter) that we ask you to kindly scroll to the second and third pages of your search. We definitely don’t want to hide and want you to find us so we can help you write your book.

Ghosts are trapped in some kind of strange limbo. Ghostwriters are self-motivated, organized writers who write every day for a living. We pick our own work hours or may even work in our pajamas, or not. We may not do mornings, or we may. We may work weekends. We may work all night. The take away is that we are dedicated project planners that work according to schedule to deliver. And, we do.

Ghosts may have a bone to pick or a vendetta. Ghostwriters have contracts so you know where you stand. Contracts make it easy to know what your role is as the author and what the ghostwriter’s role will be regarding the writing of your book, fees, and deadlines, etc.

Ghosts are wandering souls that need to be released. So are ghostwriters. We unleash our souls in everything we write. We can’t help it. We’re like the security software program running in the background to keep you safe. Even though it is your story, your book, a little bit of us goes into how we create and interpret your story.

What’s Your Hurricane Story?

For those of us who call Florida home, we know that hurricanes are part of the make-up of the land. We dodged the Hurricane Matthew bullet last year, but this year, no one could surely say they wouldn’t be affected by Hurricane Irma in some way or another. I had happened to be hosting a friend, a cancer survivor,  and her daughter at my home on Labor Day weekend. My vision was to create the most amazing getaway I could for her, a respite from all of the stress she had been through the past few years. I spent weeks decorating the spare bedrooms, making them colorful, fun, and inviting.

When you live in Florida, you get used to playing tour guide. It’s fun and it’s one of the reasons why we live here. When you’re hosting friends and family., it’s easy to forget about the outside world because you are taking a mini-vacation from your routine at your own home. Since I work at home as a writer, this means I can be even more flexible in my tour guide role. We went to the beach for sunrise (6:30 a.m.) and coffee, and had acai breakfast bowls (so addictive) IMG_0263for breakfast, hiked the wetlands in search of alligators and water birds, ate seafood at riverside restaurants, browsed at quaint little downtown shops, took a painting class, and even danced the salsa late into the night at a Latin dance club.

Toward the end of their visit, I was out walking my dogs, while my guests were enjoying a poolside read on the lanai. I happened to see my friend and neighbor hauling in some bottled water. “I’m getting ready for Irma,” she yelled out to me as her greeting. Sheesh, I thought. The last thing I had heard about Irma was that she was going out into the Atlantic. Better check the weather channel when I get back home.

As soon as I got home, I checked online and sure enough, Irma seemed to be headed our way, forecast to clip the entire east coast. Since she was such a big storm, I didn’t know what my long-term course of action should be, but I knew I needed to start by filling up my van with gas, and buying some food and water. But, first, I needed to make sure my guests could get home safely.

On the last day of their visit, I made them a quick leftover lunch and got them safely on road to the Orlando airport. Then, I went out to fill up, navigating the lined-up cards that snaked around the gas station parking lot. It was only Tuesday and Hurricane Irma wasn’t forecast to hit our area until six days later. After filling up, I meandered through the gas station’s store, looking for a few gallons of water just to be safe. “The last box of waters are over here,” the clerk yelled out. “Come see what we have. It’s not much.”

Strewn on the floor was a cardboard box with six gallons, and some plastic packages of smaller bottles of water. “How much?”

“The box of gallons is $18,” she said.

Three dollars a gallon. What a steal!

Since I had no idea whether or not she had been telling me the truth, i.e. that these were the last gallons left on earth, I grabbed them, and some of the smaller packages of bottled waters as well.

Then, I drove to the grocery store, where everyone was in a frenzy, loading up on the canned goods, like soup, and chips and snacks. I just bought my usual groceries, but more quantities of them in case the stores lost electricity and had to throw out everything, like they did after Hurricane Jeanne back in 2004. I bought a medley of vegetables to make a huge pot of soup. Multi-grain spirals and a hunk of cheese to make my comfort food, homemade Mac and cheese. I bought several cartoons of eggs, planning on boiling them. I bought a bag of ice, and some bananas and other fruits, plus a large fruit smoothie, and bars. I stocked up on cat litter and dog and cat food and treats. Then, I checked out.

Once I got home, I started fielding the many calls, texts, and email messages that people  from out of state were sending, wanting me to evacuate. But evacuate to where? No one knew where the storm was heading for sure so going to the west coast of FL was not going to work. What if I got stuck in a hotel out there, much less safe than my concrete block home? Couldn’t head north with all the other evacuees because I might run out of gas on the way, which would be terribly unsafe to be caught in a vehicle during the storm. Not only that, I had two dogs and two cats. Last year, when the eye of Hurricane Matthew was headed straight for the town where I live, I headed inland to Orlando and stayed with friends in their summer house. But, like I said, no one knew where Irma was headed, so the smartest thing to do was sit tight until we did.

My friends and family didn’t understand this, though. They didn’t understand that I still needed to prep my house, not to mention take care of my pets. A shelter was out of the question since none in my county would take pets, and I also wanted to leave shelter space for those under mandatory evacuation. So, that was that. I was staying.

Now that I had made my decision, I called up my jack-of-all-trades handyman friend and he came over the next day to put up OSB board on most of my windows, leaving my front window and door, and one of my back sliders uncovered. IMG_0272.JPGOne of my biggest concerns was making sure that my backyard didn’t flood into my house and I needed a way out if it did. I moved all the furniture inside, all the plants, and other outside gadgets. My son and his girlfriend stopped by (he had left school to go surfing) and helped board up the house. He gave me a quick hug before heading back to college in Orlando to help at their school’s shelter.

One of my friends, who lived on the island and was under mandatory evacuation, came to stay over during the storm. She brought her cute little powderpuff dogs. It took about an hour for my lab and terrier and our guest dogs to get used to each other out on the back deck. The cats high-tailed if for the closets but eventually came out to make a nonplussed kind of peace.

That was Saturday afternoon. We walked the dogs for about four miles in the intermittent rain bands then came back in for a glass of wine and something to eat. We chatted and visited then headed off to bed. I was exhausted. While we had almost a week to prepare for the storm, that was all we did, all we could think about. When I awoke the next morning, my friend said she was heading home.

“What?”

“It’s headed to the other side. I’ll be alright.”

I wasn’t happy about this at all, but she is a grown woman and it was her decision so there was nothing I could do. I helped her pack up her stuff in the torrential rain bands, climbing over my van in my overstuffed garage to reach her car.

Once she was on her way, I immediately called or emailed my friends on the west coast. Had they evacuated? Did they need a place to stay? I continued to text many of my friends who lived beachside to see if they needed a last minute place to stay. Some were in Georgia, some in South Carolina, some in the panhandle.  I was glad I stayed home because it would be a bear to come back, plus now, most of them were in the path of the storm they sought to escape.

The rest of the day I spent sweeping water off of my deck during the microbursts we had received from a huge rain band coming from Miami. I did as much laundry as I could and put hot soup in a thermos and kept my water heated in a large stainless steel pot.

I made sure my phone and computer were powered up and that I had candles and flashlights ready. Then I sat back on my sofa and watched a movie on Netflix. As soon as it ended, the lights went out. It was about 7 p.m.  The winds had just started picking up. I wish I would have emptied the pool one last time but then I wouldn’t have seen how the movie ended. I lit a candle and checked the house to make sure everything was ready. The dogs and cats were snuggled on their chairs and couches and settling in for the night. I wrote a few texts but wanted to keep my battery in case I needed my phone for something.

Once the winds got stronger, I knew on my own. There was no way I or anyone else could safely head out if something went wrong. If you needed help, no one could get to you. It was a strange feeling. It was isolating but I wasn’t afraid. I tried to do some reading but figured I would just try to sleep. Even though it was only 9 pm. I lit a candle in the bathroom, one with a high holder so it wouldn’t catch anything on fire, and tried to nap. I woke every now and then from the whistling of the winds. It was getting stronger. I checked the weather channel on my phone and the storm was only in Fort Myers, much more south and on the other coast. What was it gong to be like when it made its way toward Orlando? Eight hours had gone by and the wind was still whipping. It was about 3 a.m. I looked out the windows that were not boarded up and it looked like one of those scenes that are aired on T.V.. Palms bent sideways, horizontal rain. I made a cup of tea and listened for awhile with my terrier by my side. It looked and sounded like 90 to 100 mph winds. I decided to go back to sleep because there was nothing more I could do. I crossed myself and tucked myself in, completely aware, in that kind of sleep-awake consciousness state, that the wind sounded like an off-pitch harmonica. My roof slammed and I jumped out of bed, my terrier by my side. It sounded like monkeys scrambling on my roof. Then, I  heard a loud crack. No water appeared to be coming into the house and it was too dark to see what had happened. So, I just sat there for awhile, listening to the howling of the wind. By 7 a.m., the winds had died down, so I took the dogs out, but they were afraid. It was no longer raining but the winds were still clocking about 40 mph. As I checked out the yard, my neighbor had  pointed out that I lost some soffits and a lot of shingles. My backyard neighbor’s 40 foot magnolia had conveniently fallen between two houses. I was just too tired to deal with it all, so I just went to bed and got back up a couple of hours later. When I got up, there was no water, no electricity, and my cell phone wasn’t working.

In the days that followed, the worst part of it, for me, was no communication. Cell phones were spotty and it was difficult to find any contractors to help. My homeowner’s insurance company didn’t answer their phone. I didn’t see that my handyman had called until the next day and somehow got a call into him before my coverage went out again. When he got up on my roof, he said it looked like I had lost about 70 shingles during that tornado hit. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the damage, in my opinion, was minimal. Some of my friends didn’t fare as well. Many were without electric for more than a week, some without water. Others had been flooded. I was thankful that we had all survived and that things, with time and patience, could be patched up. Surviving a hurricane is what makes one a Floridian. It’s what makes us tough. It’s what makes us appreciate the other 364 days when we can sit back and relax with clear skies, warm water, beaches, and palm trees. IMG_0190

What is ghostwriting?

What do ghostwriters do and how do they do it? While I can’t speak for every ghostwriter, what I can say is that learning about someone else’s story and then creating it on the page is a unique science.

pexels-photo-299903When I begin a book project, I spend a great deal of time just listening. I conduct frequent interviews with the author, in person and/or by telephone, to not only hear the author tell his or her story but to also learn more about the author as a person, picking up on subtle nuances and cues, like vocabulary choices, tone of voice, and mannerisms. As a ghostwriter, however, my task isn’t just translating someone else’s thoughts into a story that others will want to read. The process delves much deeper than that. I need to see what the author sees, feel what the author feels, be where the author was. That’s when I begin writing, page after page, chapter after chapter, to create the manuscript.

Ghostwriting is more interpretation than it is translation. The ghostwriter is like a filter through which the author’s thoughts can spill freely onto the canvas. But, the ghostwriter also acts as a trusty rudder that guides the creative process. The process of ghostwriting a book or any other type of writing always begins and ends with the power of words. Not just any words, but carefully selected words that first create a framework then color in the picture of what the author intended. When my clients tell me, “That’s just how I envisioned it,” I know I have the tapped into the author’s vision.

 

Welcome to “The Gift of Writing Words”

dawn-sunset-person-womanWelcome to this blog called “The Gift of Writing Words.”  I love everything and anything to do with writing. I write for a living and I also write for pleasure. I was once, and still am, a teacher of writing and now I write for others as a ghostwriter. Sometimes I get a byline and sometimes I don’t. But, all the same, I am doing the one thing I love the most and that is writing.

Words are not tools of expression; they are gifts. That’s why I have elected to call this blog “The Gift of Writing Words.” Words are what help us express our thoughts, make our ideas more tangible. I’m sure you have heard phrases like, “I just can’t put my thoughts into words.” That may be true. Sometimes you may not be able to. Because sometimes you can’t use every gift that you are given. It is the same with words. Sometimes words cannot help you say exactly what you want to say. Words may act as placeholders for our thoughts but they don’t reveal what we really want them to. Maybe there isn’t a word that describes exactly what you feel. So you have to shape the language to communicate a thought or evoke an emotion. Or, you may have to broaden your vocabulary, even beyond your own language, and write a new or different word. Or, better yet, you create something new.

If we think about the words we use as gifts to others, our messages will be given with a spirit of charity, just as our gift-giving does. Words are messengers of what already dwells within our minds and souls. They are the transmitters of what we already believe. And, words can be used to elucidate what we have known all along but just needed time to discover. Words help us understand, words help us create, and words help us move others. When the gift of words are used with charity, the writer will always be able to reach the hearts of others.